Ideas are the root of creation. Attributed to Ernest Dimnet in: Rhonda L. Theoretically, education is a mental training aiming at greater intellectual elasticity, but the question is whether education does not often strain, instead of train, a mind. Conversely, people with immense leisure find time for nothing. There exists some book, pamphlet, article in an encyclopaedia, or possibly an old clipping from a newspaper that once set you thinking; there may be many; indeed you may be one of those rare beings with whom a few lines of print are food enough or thought because, as Lamartine says, their thoughts think themselves.

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On Thinking A familiar scene. You are standing near the doorsill, looking, and not looking, thinking. Somebody steals by and you hear the words whispered "a penny for your thoughts. Later in the day you are deep, or seem to be deep, in a book. But your face does not look as it usually does when you are happy in your reading: your contracted brow reveals intense concentration, too intense for mere reading.

In fact, you are miles away, and to the questions: "What are you thinking? What book is that? Thinking of nothing" or, "Thinking of all sorts of things. Once more you were conscious of something experienced many times before: our mind is not like a brilliantly lit and perfectly ordered room; it is much more like an encumbered garret inhabited by moths born and grown up in half lights: our thoughts; the moment we open the door to see them better the drab little butterflies vanish.

The consciousness of this phenomenon is discouraging, of course. This accounts for the fact that, when offered a penny for our thoughts, we generally look, sot only puzzled, but embarrassed, and anxious to be let alone not only by the questioner but by the question as well. We are like the puppy who is willing to bark once at his own image in the mirror and to snap eagerly behind it, but who, after the second trial, looks away in disgust.

It should not be attempted when we are too abstracted, that is to say, when our consciousness is completely off its guard, but when there are favorable occasions. When we are reading the newspaper and the quickly changing subjects begin to tire, without quite exhausting us; when the motion of the train or of the car sets our thoughts to a certain rhythm which may soon become abstraction or drowsiness, but still is only a slackening of the mental processes; when the lecture we hear is neither good enough to rivet our attention, or bad enough to irritate us; then, and every time we are in a mental lull, is our chance to get a glimpse of our mind as it really works and as it reveals our innermost nature.

By a sudden stiffening of our consciousness, a quick face-about inwards, we can, as it were, solidify a section of mental stream which, during three or four seconds, will lie ready for our inspection.

If one succeeds in doing it once, one will certainly feel like doing it again, for no examination of conscience is so strikingly illuminating as that one, and the more frequent it will be, the easier, at least during certain periods, it will also become.

Why not do it now? A penny for your thoughts! What are you thinking of? You look up, surprised at what you regard as an exhibition of very poor taste in a writer. Why, I am thinking of your book. You may not be as interested in writing, as I am in reading it. I love this subject. Had you been wandering, it would have been useless. So you love this subject? Books should not talk. Is it not so? I begin to like this conversation. So, these thoughts which are your own and not mine are exterior to this book.

I assure you I am following you closely; yet, I must admit that I am not trying to memorize what you say: it would spoil all the pleasure I find in this. I am even willing to admit that my pleasure is my own and therefore might be called, as you say, a sort of distraction.

In fact, I was thinking You were thinking? In summer, when we were there, the smell of winter apples was still in it, and I loved it. I would sit there for hours, as a boy, thinking. You see, after all, I was thinking of thinking. As a matter of fact, often when I see the picture which gives me the deepest impression of happy thinking—the portrait of Erasmus writing—I think of the old garret. I have no doubt that I thought of Erasmus, a few minutes ago, for I was positively annoyed, for a moment, at the recollection of a man who once stood before that picture and asked me: who is this old fellow looking down his long nose?

I hate a fool. The memory of this one actually made me fidget in my chair, and I had to make an effort to think of something else. Have you been thinking of that too? What I shall be signing tomorrow involves a sum I might take five years to make. However, I am almost sure that everything will go well and I can buy poor Jim the partnership he wants. For I begin to know your thoughts pretty well.

Naturally they are, every one of them, about you, and that is as it should be. There are, of course, in your mind, thoughts hidden so deep that no amount of digging up could reveal them, but there is no doubt that they would be even nearer your ego than those you have discovered in the course of our conversation.

Sometimes, very unexpectedly, we become aware of the tingling of our arteries in our heads, even of the fact that we are alive; this consciousness is of no use whatever to us, unless it somehow concurs in keeping us alive, but we are lavish when our Self is at stake.

Do not imagine that I am reproaching you. Yet, you must also admit that while were interested in this book you were interested in something else. It is so with everybody. Have you ever heard that Sir Walter Scott, when he had found the nucleus of a new novel by which his imagination would naturally be engrossed, would, however, read volume after volume that had no reference to his subject, merely because reading intensified the working of his brain?

When you say that you were reading this book attentively, you mean that your intellect was expending some share of your consciousness—let us say one fifth or, at best, one third of it—on the book. But your intellect is only a sort of superior clerk doing outside jobs for you.

You, yourself, did not cease for all that, doing the work of your Self, infinitely more important to you than any theory. All the time you were imagining that the Art of Thinking was making you think, you were thinking of Jim, Erasmus, the fool, the garret and business, undoubtedly too, of dozens of other things we have not been able to trace back to your consciousness.

Those thoughts which you are tempted to call distractions, are what your Self is thinking, in spite of the book, and, to tell the truth, the book is your distraction. Even writing can be the same thing. It thinks that I should do my work with perfect happiness if, two hours ago, I had not seen a poor stray cat wandering in the drizzle with two frightened kittens at her side. I love cats as much as you hate fools. Psychologists speak of the "mental stream. In reality, the flux in our brain carries along images—remembered or modified—feelings, resolves, and intellectual, or partly intellectual conclusions, in vague or seething confusion.

And this process never stops, not even in our sleep, any more than a river ever stops in its course. The mental stream is more like a mountain brook, constantly hindered in its course, and whirling as often as it flows.

When we look in we are conscious of the perpetual motion, but, if we do more than merely peep and at once look away, we promptly notice the circular displacement and reappearance of whole psychological trains.

These trains are invariably produced by some image in whose wake they follow. The gentleman with whom I just had such an enlightening conversation had his mind full of a multitude of images—inconsiderable reflections, as swift and also as broken and impossible to arrest as the wavelets in a stream—but he was conscious, or semiconscious of only a few.

What were they? A room in a country house, the picture of Erasmus by Holbein, a fool, Jim. To change our simile—the more we use, the nearer we shall be to the endless changing reality—these representations were like the larger and brighter fragments in a kaleidoscope. To these the mind of the gentleman would every few minutes revert. It is hardly necessary to say that these images acted upon him as all images act upon us. We are attracted by some and repelled by others.

The old apple-room was altogether satisfactory; so would Erasmus have been, had it not been for that silly man, and, in time, even the silly man would have been tolerable because he produced not only irritation but a pleasant sense of superiority. I say probably, for who knows? Quite possibly, relief from an unpleasant picture was sought in a pleasanter one. The stream runs fast and so deep between its brambly sides that it is impossible to see anything clearly in it.

All we can say is: 1. That most of our mental operations are inseparable from images, or are produced by images. We do not differ in this from the dear animals near us. That those images closely correspond to wishes or repulsions, to things we want or do not want, so that this wanting or not wanting seems to be the ultimate motive power in our psychology, probably in connection with elementary conditions in our being.

That inevitably, people will reveal in their thoughts and speeches, in their outlook on life and in their lives themselves, the quality of the images filling their minds. Investigation and estimation of these images, together with investigation and estimation of our likes and dislikes, will tell us what we are worth morally more accurately than even our actions, for they are the roots of action.

But to this we shall revert later. Surely, you say, what you have described so far is not thought. Our brain must be free sometimes from images, from likes or dislikes, from wants and repulsions. There must be a superior kind of mental operation, something immaterial resulting in abstractions. How are mathematical and philosophical systems evolved? What is logic? Yes, there are languages abbreviating billions of experiences, and there are formulas filling whole libraries.

The one of our savage ancestors, who, wrestling with onomatopoeia and almost in despair at seeing a shade of meaning which he could not express, for the first time invented the future tense by conglobing "to-morrow," or "sun-rise," or "morning hunger" with a crude verb-noun, was a genius; and intellectual work has produced libraries which, in their turn, keep the noblest minds occupied; and all this tends to abstraction.

But the study of it belongs to the Science of Thought, while we are here concerned only with the Art of Thinking. Yet, it is useful, even for our purpose, to say a word about this less practical aspect of the subject. We have an idea that thought—as diamonds are wrongly-supposed to do—can exist in a pure state, and is elaborated without images.

We feel sure that we are not infrequently conscious of conclusions, practical or speculative arrived at without the help of images. Ah, What are they? But, first of all, are there any? How can we be sure that there are any? Every time we really succeed in watching our mental process we discover the presence of images. You say "thoughts," "pure thought," and you are persuaded that you say this without any accompanying image, but are you right or wrong?



Nitaur The Art of Thinking So is the purely practical teaching of modern languages prevalent in most schools. Theoretically, education is a mental training aiming at greater intellectual elasticity, but the question is whether education does not often strain, thinling of train, a mind. Politicians frequently act historical characters and their natural insincerity becomes tenfold in consequence. This too is known to all literary people. Why, that girl seems to speak like a native. With closed eyes and a marvelous receptivity over his face, Potain listens.



Vomi The art of thinking Amazon Renewed Frnest products with a warranty. Ye Lu rated it really liked it Dec 21, The memory of this one actually made me fidget in my chair, and I had to make an effort to think of something else. Soon he begins to suppress the native vivacity on his face and replaces it by good-natured slowness. You will feel at once that the so-called critics only pretend to know what they are writing about, and write about this negative quantity in an entirely artificial style. The American boy leaves school with a more ar less definite idea that what is called culture is a luxury, that is to say a superfluity. It will be enough if the reader is conscious of sympathy to which he has a right, and of a continuous striving to help him in his effort to think his best and live his noblest.


The Art of Thinking

On Thinking A familiar scene. You are standing near the doorsill, looking, and not looking, thinking. Somebody steals by and you hear the words whispered "a penny for your thoughts. Later in the day you are deep, or seem to be deep, in a book. But your face does not look as it usually does when you are happy in your reading: your contracted brow reveals intense concentration, too intense for mere reading.


Ernest Dimnet


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